Can dog groomers express the anal glands, plug the ears, etc.?

October 10th, 2018

A friend of mine, Joanne Angus, a very well-known and respected person in the dog grooming industry, approached RCVS for some clarification on whether dog groomers can express the anal glands, plug the ears, etc.

This was their response.

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Dear Ms. Angus

Thank you for your recent email regarding whether professional dog groomers can take the temperatures of dogs using a rectal thermometer.
To assist you, you may find it helpful to review Chapter 19 of the RCVS’s Supporting Guidance to the Code of Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons which deals with the treatment of animals by unqualified persons such as dog groomers.

As you will be aware, the practise of veterinary surgeons is limited to veterinary surgeons. For the avoidance of doubt, “veterinary surgery” means the art and science of veterinary surgery and medicine as defined by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 ‘the Act’ under which the RCVS operates. This includes the diagnosis of diseases in, and injuries to, animals including tests performed on animals for diagnostic purposes, the giving of advice based upon such diagnosis, the medical or surgical treatment of animals and performance of surgical operations on animals. However, there are a number of exemptions under the Act which allow other people such as laypersons to carry out minor medical treatment.

The College does not have formal guidance on the topic of taking temperatures of dogs using a rectal thermometer, but we have sought advice from internal committees which have stated this particular task can be undertaken by laypersons such as dog groomers following suitable training from a veterinary surgeon.

May I also take this opportunity to clarify the position regarding anal glands expression and ear plucking by dog groomers.

In terms of internal expression of the para-anal sacs per rectum, it is correct that lay people such as dog groomers cannot undertake this task. This is because it amounts to the practise of veterinary surgery and therefore may only be undertaken by veterinary surgeons or registered veterinary nurses or student veterinary nurses working under the “direction” of their veterinary surgeon employer.
Conversely, external expression of the para-anal sacs may be undertaken by competent lay people such as dog groomers or owners. However, the procedure should have been demonstrated and explained to them by a veterinary surgeon (and the frequency of emptying). If a para-anal sec problem is suspected, the animal should be seen by a veterinary surgeon for confirmation of diagnosis and advice regarding necessary treatment. Routine prophylactic expression should only be undertaken on the advice of a veterinary surgeon.

With regards to ear plucking, the College is of the view that the external meatus may be cleaned by a lay person such as a dog groomer and removing minor hair/debris from a non-infected ear can be undertaken by lay person as this would not usually be considered an act of veterinary surgery. However, if there is an ear infection or a possibility of a ruptured ear drum, cleaning/plucking should be dealt with by a veterinary surgeon.

I hope the above information is able to help.

Kind regards
Standards and Advice Officer
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

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I would also add if your dog groomer refuses to express the anal glands or plug the ears, de matt, the reason could be as simple as that a dog doesn’t like it. These procedures are not always nice and some dogs get really upset. As dog groomers we are trying to build relationships with dogs based on trust, without hurting or upsetting the dogs.

If we need to spend approximately 2 hours with them they need to be spent in harmony, with mutual understanding and respect. And sometimes it is a long distance run…

Jitka xx

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